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Study highlights demand for diverse housing in University District area

The University District Alliance, a community group that works to address neighborhood-level issues in the areas surrounding the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus, hosted a recent forum about the district's housing demands.

The University of Minnesota's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) and the Urban Land Institute Minnesota cosponsored the event.

At the forum, people got a chance to learn about the findings of a district-wide housing market study, for which the alliance contracted with Minneapolis-based Maxfield Research, a real estate research and consulting firm, according to Kris Nelson, a CURA staffer who also presented at the event. Nelson serves on the alliance's housing committee.

The study, which incorporates U.S. Census statistics, shows that in keeping with the area's population boom in the period from 2000 to 2010, the next decade could bring an influx of another thousand households, including a mix of students, young professionals, and older adults and seniors, he says. 

He says the district is attractive because it's rich in amenities, including an historic character and plenty of cultural and educational opportunities. It's also centrally located near the Mississippi riverfront and downtown, with easy access to public transit.

But considering the area's high concentration of student renters and little home ownership, "There's a concern that neighborhoods are in danger of becoming destabilized," while off-campus student housing is often crowded and poorly managed, he says. 

To help counteract that, some community members have expressed interest in the possibility of active adult and senior housing in the district that would specifically target university alumni--a possibility that was also a trigger of the study, he says.
All in all, the study reinforces the fact that there needs to "be more diversity of housing and more sustainability in the long-term," with some higher-density townhouses or multistory houses, not just single-family homes, to meet the needs, he says. 

Source: Kris Nelson, CURA
Writer: Anna Pratt

Folwell Hall�s $34.5 million renovation wrapping up, building to reopen in July

The 1906-built Folwell Hall on the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus is wrapping up a $34.5 million renovation.

Folwell Hall, which has the most classroom space of any building on the East Bank of campus, is slated to reopen this August, in time for the fall semester that begins Sept. 6, according to university spokesperson Kelly O'Brien.

Soon, the departments that relocated when the building closed in June 2010, including Asian Languages and Literatures; French and Italian; German, Scandinavian and Dutch; and Spanish and Portuguese, will settle back in.

The current preservation work links up with the 2007 exterior preservation in an effort to extend the building's lifetime another 50 to 100 years, Folwell "will be reinvigorated from the top to bottom, inside and out," O'Brien says.

Inside the building, historic attributes such as the yellow- and gray-shaded Italian marble on the first floor, wrought-iron stair railings, fireplaces, and elaborate woodwork have been painstakingly renovated. "All of that has been removed and cleaned up and put back in place," she says.

The classrooms, many of which have been consolidated to be more flexible, will be equipped with cutting-edge technologies to keep pace with new learning opportunities. Students will connect with foreign-language learners in other countries "so they can practice each others' languages with native speakers."

Classrooms will also display foreign-language news and other programming. "It helps connect students with the world and immerse them in foreign culture and languages," she says.

Additionally, the classrooms will be much quieter than they used to be, without the jet engine-sized air conditioners that language students once had to suffer through, she says.

Mechanical and electrical systems and the windows have been upgraded to be more efficient. Accessibility was also a priority; a connection to the Gopher Way tunnel system was added to help out in this area, as well, she says.

Source: Kelly O'Brien, University of Minnesota spokesperson
Writer: Anna Pratt  

Platinum Equities to spend $6 million to acquire Radisson Hotel near U of M for upscale renovation

Under new ownership, the Radisson University Hotel near the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis will soon be re-imagined as an "upscale, independent, lifestyle" destination, according to Susan Weinberg, the university's director of real estate.

Recently the university's Board of Regents approved a new 50-year lease on the land, the Minnesota Daily reports.

The 1985-built hotel has 304 guest rooms, more than 20,202 square feet of meeting space, and a fitness center, according to a Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal story from late last year. An Applebee's restaurant, University Lounge wine bar, Great Clips, Starbucks Coffee, and a TCF Bank branch are housed in the building, it states.

Platinum Equity, a California private equity firm, plans to renovate the entire place, from top to bottom, including guest rooms, public spaces and conference rooms, though the specifics are unknown at this time, Weinberg says.

She hopes that the changes "will better serve the university community."  

Improved conference facilities, more attractive rooms, and a good mix of first-floor retail could generate higher occupancy rates, which is to the school's benefit, she says. The university frequently hosts events in the hotel's conference spaces and it puts up faculty and staff recruits and visiting athletic teams at the hotel.

She says the university has been advised that Platinum Equity will spend more than $6 million upon acquisition of the hotel, which sits on college property. Minneapolis-based Maddux Hotel Corp. is the current owner, she says. Richfield Hospitality Inc., from Denver, will run the hotel.

The hotel is likely to get a new name, but that's still up in the air, says Weiberg, adding that renovations will need to wrap up by the spring of 2014 when the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line, which will run through campus, will be operational.  

Once the purchase agreement is closed on, "There'll be a lot more information," she says.

Source: Susan Weinberg, director of real estate, University of Minnesota
Writer: Anna Pratt

$6 million Lind Hall renovation to better serve U of M science and engineering students

As the University of Minnesota's Lind Hall in Minneapolis approaches 100 years, the College of Science and Engineering is making plans for the building's future.

The $6 million renovation involves a full reworking of the school's layout, while also maintaining its historic integrity, according to Paul Strykowski, who is a professor of mechanical engineering and associate dean of undergraduate programs at the college.

He says the place needs to be more inviting to potential students and better serve undergraduates. "This is a way to say that they're incredibly important, by investing in resources to make the space nicer."

The building's new layout reflects changing thinking about how to prepare students for the workforce, he says.

For example, while students need solid math and science credentials, they should also develop their creative, artistic, and leadership abilities.

In the past, students took a bunch of classes and didn't start looking for jobs until they were seniors. "That compartmental way of thinking isn't helpful," he says. "It's more important to help students early on," while taking a more holistic approach.

Advising and career planning offices have been brought together to help people they "find out 'what can I do with this, what kind of future might I have,'" he says.  

A welcome area will make it easy for prospective students and their families to explore careers and tour campus. "It's important to explain what everything means and to have it all in one place, that shows what we're trying to accomplish," he says.  

Electronic signage and other kinds of technological tools that will be donated by 3M will inform students about exam times, scholarships, and meetings.

Additionally, the building will have spaces for student organizations, including shared conference rooms that facilitate collaboration.  

In general, the building will be more open, with glass walls that let people see what's going on and "create community and energy around these [science and engineering] fields."

The school hopes to break ground early this summer and construction could take six to nine months, he says.

Source: Paul Strykowski, professor of mechanical engineering and associate dean of undergraduate programs
Writer: Anna Pratt

U of M lobbies for $80 million nanotech lab for Minneapolis campus

The University of Minnesota is lobbying during this year's state legislative session for funding for a new $83 million nanotechnology and physics lab on its Minneapolis campus.

Gov. Mark Dayton has made it a priority in his bonding bill this year, following in the footsteps of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Last year the legislature ended up dedicating $4 million for planning for the lab, according to Steven Crouch, who is the dean of the university's College of Science and Technology.

Even though it's not officially a bonding year, some university officials hope the funding will come through. "If funding was available through the session we could start construction this summer," Crouch says. "It's ready to go."

He says the lab will allow the university to expand its research capabilities in the nano science and engineering areas.

The university's plan includes 40 new research laboratories that would accommodate 200 faculty, graduate students, and visiting researchers, according to project information. It would also have 43,000-square-feet for physics labs and support space with 15,000 square feet devoted specifically to nanotechnology.   

Crouch says a couple examples of everyday products that were developed through nanotechnology include fast drying, extra-durable paints and machine tools that are "tougher and harder."  

A new 5,000-square-foot "clean room," where conditions such as dust, temperature, humidity, and vibrations are tightly controlled, would enable the university to work with soft and biological materials, providing opportunities for collaboration with medical school researchers.

"We're talking about working with living cells and materials that help for targeting drug delivery, including ways to deliver vaccines and stave off infections and tumors," says Crouch, adding that nanotech is about "manipulating matter at the molecular level."

Its existing 20-year-old "clean room" is restricted to work with hard materials.

Additionally, the lab will help attract top talent to the school and help it secure research dollars.  

"This is an important thing for keeping Minnesota in the innovation hunt with other states around the country," he says. "We're optimistic and very enthusiastic about the prospects."

Source: Steven Crouch, dean of the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Technology.
Writer: Anna Pratt

Local nonprofits come away from design charrette armed with ideas, plans

Following an intense weekend of information-gathering and design, six local nonprofits are armed with concrete materials to start making redevelopment and remodeling projects a reality.

The Search for Shelter Charrette through the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is an annual workshop that offers up pro bono design labor to local nonprofit agencies working in affordable housing and homelessness.   
This year's event, which ran Feb. 11-13 at the University of Minnesota's College of Design, attracted 42 volunteer architects, landscape and interior designers, and students, who split into six teams, according to Jacquelyn Peck, a Minnesota AIA representative. 

Participating nonprofits, which were selected through a competitive process, this year included the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, Selby Avenue Action Coalition, Emma Norton Services, Rebuilding Together Twin Cities, Families Moving Forward, and Woodland Hills Church.
One team worked on a plan for the Emma Norton facility downtown St. Paul, according to Peck.

Some volunteers studied the possibility of building out a coffee shop on the shelter's ground floor.  

They walked around the area to assess the potential market for a new coffee shop. Nearby were clinics and businesses, but there wasn't much in the way of restaurants or food services, she says.

Besides filling a business niche, an in-house coffee shop could be a source of revenue for Emma Norton while providing jobs for women staying at the shelter, she explains.  
Another couple of teams brainstormed ways to improve some blocks along Selby Avenue between Dale and Lexington avenues in St. Paul. As a part of a project for the Selby Avenue Coalition, they came up with a jazz theme that ties into an annual festival that could have "more of a year-round presence through art or images or music studios."
Both teams "captured the spirit of the street through design and research," Peck says.  
For the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, a roomful of mattresses on the floor was reconfigured with bunk beds that give people more personal space, including storage cabinets. Keeping sightlines clear while also providing a secure place for people's belongings was important, she explains.    
She says the volunteers received plenty of praise from the nonprofits and "they're excited to take the next step."
Likewise, the vast majority of volunteers responded positively, saying they would do it again. "I think it was a good event for the volunteers as well as the agencies," Peck says. 

Source: Jacquelyn Peck, AIA-Minnesota representative
Writer: Anna Pratt 

$80.8 million to turn around U of M�s aging Northrop building

The historic Northrop building, which hosts various performing arts, concerts, academic ceremonies, and civic events on the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus, is undergoing a major retooling of its function and form.

The $80.8 million revitalization project that the Board of Regents approved on Feb. 11 represents much more than a renovation, explains Steven Rosenstone, who serves as the university's vice president for scholarly and cultural affairs.

In 2006 the university took steps to stabilize and restore the 1929 building's exterior, which factors into the total cost, according to Rosenstone.

For too long, the Northrop has been on borrowed time, he says. He refers to a 2005 report that states, "No aspect of the building is without issue." It has problems with its heating and electrical systems, air flow, drinking water, elevators and more, he explains.

Rather than just fixing the building, which would be more expensive, "The idea was, let's rethink it to be a more vital and valuable resource to the university and Minnesota," he says. "It has to work for the 21st century in a way it doesn't right now."    

Where in the past the university only used the place 51 days a year, mainly at night, it'll be used to house several programs including the University Honors Program, Institute for Advanced Study, and Innovation by Design. Additionally, it'll provide for collaboration and study, with a global conference center, premium seminar and meeting rooms and a caf�, according to university information.  

Memorial Auditorium will be completely restored and become a "vastly superior performance space," seating 2,800 people, which is down from 4,800.

A team of historic preservationists that includes designers and architects are behind the project, including some people who led the restoration of several other old buildings on campus.

The building, which will soon be under construction, is scheduled to reopen in the fall of 2013. "It'll be a very thoughtful design" for a  "spectacular building."    

Source: Steven Rosenstone, vice president for scholarly and cultural affairs at the University of Minnesota
Writer: Anna Pratt

U of M residence halls compete in Conservation Madness energy challenge

As a part of an initiative this month at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities called Conservation Madness, eight residence halls will compete against one another to see who can save the most on energy and waste. 

Some students even camped out on Monday, Feb. 7, in front of the school's Coffman Union building to make a point of going "off the electrical grid." 

The contest is a joint effort of the facilities management and residential life housing departments plus several student groups, according to Jim Green, who is the assistant director for energy management at the university.

Whichever residence hall scores the most points earns a college basketball national championship party in April, according to contest information. 

In some ways the contest mirrors an earlier city-led neighborhood-by-neighborhood competition, he says. 

While the effort will help the university cut costs, "The real payoff is the awareness of the things that people can do to save energy on campus and elsewhere," says Green.

One student who is helping to organize the activities is Chelsey Shoup, a sophomore who lives in Comstock Hall on the East Bank.

She's majoring in biomedical engineering and minoring in management. In her spare time, she's active with a couple of clubs on campus, the Active Energy Club and the Energy Efficiency Student Alliance (which is a coalition involving the school's Active Energy Club, Minnesota Public Research Interest Group, Eco Watch, and Green Biz).  

Echoing Green, she says the contest is a good chance to educate her peers.

By their actions and promotional activities, including approaching students on campus they're "just hoping to raise awareness of the small, everyday choices that students can make to save energy," she says, adding, "small changes to their lifestyle that will make a big difference."

Source: Jim Green, assistant director for energy management at the University of Minnesota, Chelsey Shoup, University of Minnesota and its Active Energy Club and Energy Efficiency Student Alliance
Writer: Anna Pratt

Local architects tackle housing issues for 25th annual design charrette

As a part of the 25th annual Search for Shelter Charrette through the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), a group of architects and designers will come up with design solutions to address various affordable housing and homelessness issues. 

The workshop at the University of Minnesota's College of Design, which goes from Feb. 11 to 13, is the only one of its kind throughout the AIA network, according to event information.

Jacquelyn Peck, a Minnesota AIA representative, explains that about 50 volunteer architects, landscape and interior designers, and students who turn out for the weekend will break into eight-person teams. The teams are then individually assigned to a handful of different projects. 

Nonprofit organizations apply to participate in the event through a competitive process, she says.  

The event includes opening remarks from Minnesota chapter president Steve Fiskum, a panel discussion with area housing experts, and presentations from the selected nonprofits. 

Afterward, teams meet with nonprofits to go over more details. They spend the day visiting sites, developing designs, and creating accompanying images. To help the nonprofits get going on the projects, "We give them a weekend of intense design, with boards and images," Peck says.

She describes the event as a springboard to "get [nonprofits'] ideas down into something tangible so they can talk about it and educate others with."

On Sunday at noon, the teams present their work as part of a program that's open to the public.     
Past projects have centered on everything from connecting scattered affordable housing sites to remodeling homeless-shelter lobbies.

One project that has been a success, starting off at the design charrette in 2008, is the revamped facility for YouthLink, which provides services to homeless youth. "They took images and got funding to do the remodeling and addition work," Peck says, adding, that the facility re-opened a few months ago.  

Source: Jacquelyn Peck, representative of the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects
Writer: Anna Pratt

A high-end 120-unit student apartment complex to go in near U of M

Minnetonka-headquartered Opus Development Corp. will soon begin construction on a high-end, 120-unit student apartment complex near the University of Minnesota at Washington Avenue Southeast and Southeast Ontario Street in Minneapolis.

The Stadium Village Flats will be within walking distance to the east and west bank sides of campus, Dinkytown, and the forthcoming Central Corridor light rail train that's planned to run down Washington Avenue Southeast by 2013, according to Dave Menke, a senior vice president and general manager at Opus.

"We consider it to be the best location down at the edge of campus," he says. 

The $30 million building's units, which have a range of one to four bedrooms, will come fully furnished and will boast upscale finishes, according to company information. There will be two levels of underground parking and street-level retail, most of which CVS Pharmacy will occupy, he adds.

Inside will be student lounges, business and fitness centers, and Internet access throughout--while an eye-catching glass feature will run down the exterior on the northwest corner of the building, where Oak Street and Washington Avenue Southeast intersect.   

A couple of existing buildings that housed the longtime Harvard Market and additional commercial space and a parking lot will be demolished at the end of February, with construction beginning in March.

Initially the development involved the Oak Street Cinema and was to have twice as many units, the Minnesota Daily reported earlier, but it has been scaled down since then, due to economic factors.   

The flats will be ready in August 2012. "It'll be a first-class student housing project, he says, adding,  "There's a strong demand from the students." 

Source: Dave Menke, senior vice president and general manager for Opus Development Corp.
Writer: Anna Pratt

Making meaningful connections in the University District

Architects from the University of Minnesota's Metropolitan Design Center led a workshop on Nov. 20 at the school, which dovetailed with an earlier talk about creating a framework for the future of the University District.

The district includes the university campus and its surrounding neighborhoods. 

At the event, which drew nearly 100 attendees, presenters Ignacio San Martin and Marcy Schulte challenged people to think in terms of connection, stressing sustainable, walkable communities.

Organizer Ted Tucker, a 40-year resident of the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood who serves on the University District Alliance, a board that's trying to improve the area, says it builds on the "transformational visioning" process that the group initiated.

The district faces unique challenges, with several large institutions in close quarters, such as the university, Augsburg College, and nearby clinics and hospitals. "We're trying to improve connections with surrounding neighborhoods so it's mutually beneficial," says Tucker.

At this early stage, the group is just trying to keep the lines of communication open as opposed to laying out any specific plans. "We want to have neighborhood residents talking to developers," he says. "They can get accustomed to what residents might be concerned about."

Conversely, he says, "Residents can hear about how developers operate and what they're looking for."

At the recent workshop, San Martin conveyed a perspective that "goes back to geology, landforms, and how the river works with adjacent neighborhoods and the ecology of the area," Tucker explains.  

On a map San Martin pinpointed 10 contested territories that are key places "where there are lots of different forces coinciding."  

For instance, there's the question of what should happen with a right-of-way that's known as Granary Road, which once served the Burlington Northern Railroad. It starts at one end of the Stone Arch Bridge and continues through the industrial area in Southeast, near the new TCF stadium. Part of it is planned to be a two-lane road. There's been discussion about extending it. Some people believe it should be used for trucks. "There are different ideas on the best way to use the land available," Tucker says.   

The events give residents and other community stakeholders the chance to hear ideas for the area and react, Tucker says, adding that their feedback will help inform the process as it moves forward.

Source: Ted Tucker, representative of the University District Alliance
Writer: Anna Pratt

East Bank Mills developer rallies to beat Nov. 15 sheriff's sale deadline

One of the most unusual development projects in the Twin Cities is facing a painfully common problem this month --foreclosure.

Schafer Richardson's East Bank Mills development was designed to bring nearly 1,000 new living units to the Minneapolis riverfront but stalled once the recession hit. Now a sheriff's sale is set for Nov. 15, with urgent negotiations underway to keep the project alive.

David Frank, who has been working on the project since his first day at Schafer Richardson seven years ago, says hope for East Bank Mills' future is "tempered with a hefty dose of reality." The project's financing structure, via 24 different banks, would be "unwieldy even in good times," he says.

The developer is pressing ahead on two fronts: trying to bring new money, people, and ideas to the project; and short-circuiting the foreclosure process through talks amongst the various parties' attorneys. But time is short. As Frank noted, when the calendar flipped this week the 15th was in the middle of the page.

East Bank Mills remains an ambitious vision, even languishing on paper. Plans include renovation of the historic Pillsury A Mill, a handsome 130-year-old limestone edifice that was the world's biggest flour mill in its heyday. Designed by Minneapolis architect LeRoy S. Buffington (who had a claim as one of the earliest skyscraper designers), the A Mill towers above Main Street, the oldest street in the city. Other massive buildings in the multi-block former Pillsbury milling complex would also be reused, including a red-tile grain elevator with silos that would remain empty but would support condominiums above.

Does Schafer Richardson regret environmental, historic-preservation and neighborhood planning processes that slowed the project's process? "Not really," Frank says. To forgo those steps is "not really our style."

Source: David Frank, Schafer Richardson
Writer: Chris Steller

Minnesota Science Park aims to house 21st-century researchers on 32 urban acres

Just don't call it a corporate campus.

That might send prospective tenants of the Minnesota Science Park--a million square feet of research facilities on 32 acres near the University of Minnesota campus and the border between Minneapolis and St. Paul--running in the opposite direction.  

Inventors, research scientists and biotech entrepreneurs want spare, efficient, functional spaces to do their work, says architect John Cuningham, whose Minneapolis-based Cuningham Group Architecture will design the dozen or so buildings on what's now industrial land nestled up against the edge of the U of M's East Bank campus.

"They don't want ostentatious display," Cuningham says. "They actively dislike it." They want shared spaces where researchers in different areas can interact, but beyond that they tend to be hostile to what they regard as wasteful niceties.

It's "a very demanding project," he says, requiring Cuningham's designers to be "very economical with very advanced technology."

The project breaks the mold of most research parks located near university campuses, Cuningham says. Like the U of M itself, the Minnesota Science Park will be crammed into the urban core rather than sprawled across farmland on a rural, land-grant campus. The nonprofit team behind the project (no state dollars involved) announced it at the annual gathering of the national Association of University Research Parks held in Minneapolis last week.

Cuningham's firm had already been involved for a decade or so with urban design and planning in the Southeast Minneapolis Industrial (SEMI) Area at the western end of the Midway, a linear industrial district that stretches for miles through St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Once renowned as having the world's highest concentration of grain elevators, the area will instead be home to "21st-century American discoveries," Cuningham says, such as alternative fuels and nanotechnology.

"This is not manufacturing farm implements," Cuningham says.

Source: John Cuningham, Cuningham Group Architecture, P.A.
Writer: Chris Steller

Doran does Dinkytown again with 102-unit '412 Lofts'

One of the might've-beens about the Central Corridor light rail line that's now under construction is a route not taken at its Minneapolis end. University of Minnesota officials pushed hard for an alternative plan that would have seen trains skirt campus by swinging through the Dinkytown commercial district rather than plowing down Washington Avenue, close to vibration-sensitive research facilities. (The university dropped a lawsuit over the vibration issue last week.)

One of the advantages offered by the alternative route to downtown via Dinkytown was a proximity to land ripe for a wave of development of the sort it seemed only LRT could bring. But redevelopment is happening in the area in a big way anyway, even despite a lousy lending environment. One firm, Doran Companies, has just broken ground on its second big Dinkytown project, the 412 Lofts at Fourth Street and 13th Avenue SE.

It's to be a five-story, 102-unit apartment building with two levels of underground parking, says Jim LaValle, Doran's vice president of development. It's not student-only--that would be illegal under fair housing laws--but LaValle says the 412 Lofts will cater to the close-to-campus environment.

A year ago, Doran broke ground on Sydney Hall, a similar project that also included renovation of the Dinky Dome, built in 1915 as the Minnesota Bible College but now better known for its signature glass dome skylight. The development is now fully leased, LaValle says, including a ground-floor CVS, Dinkytown's first drugstore after a decade or more without. Plans to lease space directly under the dome for commercial use didn't find any takers, LaValle says--so lucky residential tenants will enjoy the spectacular interior instead.

How do two big developments take off within two blocks when construction is stalled elsewhere? Doran credits "efficient design that works financially"--along with a "captive audience."

Source: Jim LaValle, Doran Companies
Writer: Chris Steller

World-renowned architect and native son Bill Pedersen puts his mark on his alma mater, the U of M

As his firm's design for the world's tallest building rises in Shanghai, architect William Pedersen has designed something much closer to the ground--and, perhaps, his heart--for his alma mater, the University of Minnesota. The $72.5 million Science Teaching and Student Services (ST+SS) building is Pedersen's third major Twin Cities project, after the Federal Courthouse in Minneapolis and the St. Paul (now Travelers) Companies headquarters in his hometown of St. Paul.

Speaking from Kohn Pedersen Fox's New York office, Pedersen was full of praise for local partners HGA Architects, McGough Construction, sculptor Alexander Tylevich, and especially his university client. He seemed freshly enamored of the U of M, where he graduated from the School of Architecture in 1961 after playing Gophers hockey with teammate Herb Brooks. He acknowledged parallels between ST+SS and his 1983 Chicago landmark, 333 Wacker Drive, another building at a bend in a river that has "a fluidity addressing the natural context." Here are a few edited excerpts from the interview:

Q. Why were you attracted to the SS+ST project?

A. My commitment to the university was probably the most powerful attraction. Also, the U had a very strong philosophical concept: [to create] the most advanced teaching building in the United States. President Bruininks was very focused. Finally, it's the most dramatic site on any university campus. It faces the Mississippi River and it faces back to the campus. It forms a gateway to the East Bank campus with the Weisman [Art Museum by Frank Gehry]. The two need to form a relationship.

Q. What other challenges did the site pose?

A. The big glass surface facing west presented solar challenges. The vertical piers of stainless steel are not spaced uniformly. They're closer together where the building faces west--spaced rhythmically, not like an office building. I wanted the building to feel cheerful in all kinds of weather, even on a dreary day.

Q. How did you feel about the building once it opened?

A. I was so proud of my university and the way they [approached the project]--enormously progressive and optimistic.

Source: William Pedersen, Kohn Pedersen Fox
Writer: Chris Steller
52 University Articles | Page: | Show All
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